Nepal’s telecom regulator is implementing a new regulation starting April 14, allowing consumers to file a monetary claim in case of inconvenience caused by network problems for longer than the stipulated time.
The regulator – Nepal Telecommunications Authority – said operators of telecom services would have to compensate their customers if the service is hampered due to a network outage.
The new regulation will replace the existing regulation on the quality of telecommunications services.
The new regulation has defined the quality of service that must be met by telecom service providers, mobile operators, and internet and data service providers.
For example, if you buy a data or voice package for 15 minutes a day and the network goes down at that time, the customer must receive the same compensation.
In the case of fixed broadband, if the ISP fails to provide the service for more than the period of time technically specified by the statute, the company should waive the charges equal to the period of time.
Or the company should offer a free service for this period.
The consumer advocates said that while the Consumer Protection Act 2018 included provisions on compensation, the new statute specifically includes a provision.
“It is indeed good for consumers,” said Bishnu Prasad Timilsina, secretary-general of the Nepal Consumer Rights Protection Forum.
“The new regulation provides for compensation to the consumer in the event of a service interruption without prior information or notification. This is a landmark decision, but there are many loopholes to make it effective.”
The statute provides for returning the money for the period of service interruption as compensation, but it is not about the compensation that actually causes damage to the customer due to the service failure, Timilsina said.
“If internet service is disrupted and customers are forced to use mobile data to use the service, compensation for mobile data usage must be provided,” he added.
“Compensation is also granted if customers complain. But the mechanism for handling complaints is not simple and not all customers are aware of it.”
Both the representatives of the telephone and the Internet providers were present when the statutes were drawn up.
“We have no problem with the new statute,” said Sudhir Parajuli, President of the Internet Service Providers’ Association Nepal.
“We paid the compensation. We also have our internal setup to measure service quality.”
Nepal Telecom customer kept complaining about service interruptions.
Cases have increased in recent months.
Customers have also complained about the failure of Telekom’s charging system.
Shobhan Adhikari, spokesman for Nepal Telecom, said the service disruption was due to various reasons.
“Until now we had no compensation payment regulations. The network disruption has various reasons and it becomes difficult to separate what exactly caused the service disruption.”
“The network is disrupted due to the problem in the devices and locations,” Adhikari said.
Adhikari said they regularly submitted their key performance indicator report to the agency.
Again and again a committee was formed regarding the service disruption of Nepal Telecom.
The mobile phone providers take precautions within the scope of the customer interest determination of the statute so that customers can check the data usage or the data volume themselves.
The fixed line internet service provider needs to make arrangements to verify the details of the internet service bandwidth used by the customers themselves through a multi-router traffic graph.
In case of fixed broadband service interruption or service reconnection, the fixed internet service provider shall provide the information or notifications via SMS or other mobile apps.
The automatic ticketing system must be provided to address customer complaints.
If the Telephone Service Providers and Fixed Line Internet Service Providers fail to comply with the Standards and Conditions, the Articles provide for action to be taken under the Telecommunications Act 1997.
According to the statute, the telecom providers must prepare a report on the quality measurement every three months and submit the report to the authority within 10 working days after the end of each quarter.
In addition, the service providers must submit an annual report on the quality of the service to the authority within two months of the end of the financial year, which must also be made publicly available.
The statute requires the telecommunications service providers to manage the equipment and other resources for quality measurement.
Service providers must also carry out regular surveys on the quality of experience in the areas of service operation via e-mail, Internet, apps, SMS and other forms.
Looking at past records, Timilsina said he had less hope that the new statute would improve the quality of telecommunications services.
According to the agency, as of mid-December last year, the country had 1 basic telecom service, 2 basic phone services, 2 GSM cellular services, 22 network service providers and 138 internet services (including email).
According to the agency’s management and information system report, as of mid-December last year, the country has a total of 37.15 million phone subscribers, of which 124.45 percent are mobile phone users and 2.77 percent are fixed-line phone users.
Similarly, there are 38.25 million Internet subscribers in the country, of which 94.25 percent use mobile broadband subscribers and 36.52 percent use fixed broadband Internet services.